groucho marx

The most interesting man in the world (The tennis version)

By Bob Stockton

You know those Dos Equis TV commercials that feature THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD. “I may not always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” he says, “Stay thirsty my friends.” Who would be this man’s equivalent in the world of tennis? We’d like to nominate Sidney Wood, the man who won Wimbledon 80 years ago at the age of 19. Wood, who passed away in 2009, has his posthumously published memoir now on the market called THE WIMBLEDON FINAL THAT NEVER WAS ($15.95, New Chapter Press, available here:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257847/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=tennisgrancom-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0942257847&adid=0RGZS17NN7W96K5BJHMH&) where tales are told that will give people a lot of reason for saying that Wood could have been “THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD.”

Consider about Wood:

  • Among other starlets and movie stars, he dated Grace Kelly, the future Princess of Monaco, and actually dumped her before she begged for another chance
  • He once hired a bi-plane to chase after a train he missed after taking too long during a whistle stop in Kansas City
  • He played tennis and clowned around with actors and super stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, The Shah of Iran, chess superstar Bobby Fischer among many others
  • He was the brain child behind creating box seats at the U.S. Championships – the modern day US Open
  • Got into the laundry business with Don Budge and Arnold Palmer (and having gun-slinging actor Gary Cooper sometimes deliver laundry to patrons)
  • He qualified for the US Open doubles championship with swashbuckling Robin Hood actor Errol Flynn
  • He was the major person fighting behind the scenes to allow Althea Gibson to break the color barrier at the U.S. Championships in 1950.
  • He had his hand-prints (supposedly) immortalized in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre only to have it disappear the next day!
  • Created a rooftop tennis club in Manhattan
  • He beat King Kong’s girlfriend Fay Wray in ping pong using his shoe
  • He created Supreme Court, the indoor tennis court surface that helped pave the way for professional tennis in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • He won the “Wimbledon Final That Never Was” (and be the youngest player at the time and hold the record for a half century.
  • He was part of the only U.S. Davis Cup team to come back from an 0-2 deficit.

This year’s Wimbledon marks the 80-year anniversary when he and Frank Shields, his pal and the grandfather of actress Brooke Shields, reached the Wimbledon final, where the U.S. Tennis Association forced Shields to default the final to rest an injured knee for Davis Cup. Shields’ semifinal win over Jean Borotra was just as dramatic as when Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, hit the home run at the end of the movie THE NATURAL except, in Shields’ case, it was in real life! He basically finished off the last three games of the match on one leg, serving five unreturnable serves (from 4-3, 40-30 in the fourth set) to win the match and reach the final.

We could go on, but we suggest you buy the book.

Here’s a little more about the other MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD…

Brooke Shields’ grandfather featured in new book “The Wimbledon finale that never was…”

NEW YORK – Frank Shields, the grandfather of actress and model Brooke Shields, is prominently featured in the new book “THE WIMBLEDON FINAL THAT NEVER WAS.” The book is the memoir of Shields’ great friend and U.S. Davis Cup teammate Sidney Wood and also features incredible stories that connected the Hollywood lives of such stars as Grace Kelly, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx to those of tennis.

THE WIMBLEDON FINAL THAT NEVER WAS ($15.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com), which will be published June, 2011, details the life and times of Wood with a focus on one of the most unusual episodes ever in sport when he won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in a default – the only time in the history of The Championships that the men’s singles final was not played. Wood, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 97, tells the story of how he won the title over Shields, his school buddy, doubles partner, roommate and Davis Cup teammate when Shields was ordered by the U.S. Tennis Association to withdraw from the final to rest his injured knee in preparation for an upcoming Davis Cup match for the United States. He then discusses his “private understanding playoff” that saw his match with Shields at the Queen’s Club tournament final in London three years later be played for the Wimbledon trophy.

Wood, who could be called the greatest story teller tennis ever had, also relates fascinating anecdotes and stories that involve famous personalities from Hollywood and across the globe. Stories include his romance with Grace Kelly, his qualifying for the modern day US Open doubles championship with Errol Flynn, his on-court tennis joking with Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx among many others.

David Wood of Queens, N.Y., the youngest son of Wood, serves as contributor to the volume.

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is also the publisher of Tennis Made Easy by Kelly Gunterman, by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), The Bud Collins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Education of a Tennis Player by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf (www.CliffRicheyBook.com), Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda (www.TheLennonProphecy.com), Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog by Susan Anson among others.

People and places mentioned in the book include Andre Agassi, J.P. Allen, Wilmer Allison, Arnold Palmer, Arthur Ashe, Helen Astor, Bunny Austin, Babe Ruth, Flo Baker, Maud Barger-Wallach, Boris Becker, Berkeley Bell, The Beverly Hills Tennis Club, Harold Blauer, Bjorn Borg, Ray Bolger, Jean Borotra, Henry Breck, John Bromwich, Louis Brough, Don Budge, Jacques Brugnon, Eddie Burns, Jr., Bob Burton, Dick Button, Eddie Cantor, Oleg Cassini, Michael Chang, Charlie Chaplin, Ty Cobb, Henri Cochet, Junior Coen, Bud Collins, Harry Cohn, Henry Cole, Ian Collins, Jack Condon, Jimmy Connors, Ashley Cooper, Gary Cooper, Rocky Cooper, Jim Courier, Noel Coward, Jack Crawford, Joan Crawford, Glen Cunningham, Kevin Curren, Lili Damita, Alison Danzig, Mike Davies, Dave Chasen, Raul Barrelet de Ricou, Jack Dempsey, Babe Didrickson, Wally Dill, Joe Dimaggio, Bill Doelger, Robert Donat, Jaroslav Drobny, Stefan Edberg, Roy Emerson, Bob Falkenburg, Roger Federer, Bobby Fischer, Doug Flutie, Errol Flynn, Frank Froehling, Clark Gable, Neal Fraser, Althea Gibson, Pierre Gillou, Keith Gledhill, Paulette Goddard, Sam Goldwyn, Pancho Gonzales, Jeff Gordon, Bill Graham, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Sam Hardy, Gil Hall, Anna Harper, Rex Hartwig, Charles Hayden, Mary Heeley, Lew Hoad, Al Horowitz, Harry Houdini, Dick Hoyt, Patrick Hughes, Lamar Hunt, Patrick Hughes, Goran Ivanisevic, Bill Johnston, Bobby Jones, David Jones, Perry Jones, Grace Kelly, John Kelly, Billie Jean King, Russell Kingman, Vernon Kirby, Frank Kovacs, Richard Kraijcek, Jack Kramer, Ferdinand Kuhn, Rene Lacoste, Pierre Henri Landry, Rod Laver, Gertrude Lawrence, Ivan Lendl, Rod Laver, Alan Little, George Lott, Francis Gordon Lowe, Barry MacKay, Enrique Maier, Gene Mako, Gregory Mangin, Rocky Marciano, Roger Maris, Groucho Marx, Louis B. Mayer, Mark McCormack, John McEnroe, Viv McGrath, Chuck McKinley, Don McNeill, Aimee Semple McPherson, Andrei Medvedev, Fritz Merker, Doris Metaxa, Helen Wills Moody, Archie Moore, Carlos Moya, Phyllis Mudford, Audie Murphy, Rafael NAdal, Ilie Nastase, John Newcombe, Yannick Noah, Paavo Nurmi, Betty Nuthall, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, JAnita Page, Ray Palmer, Arnold Palmer, Gerald Patterson, Budge Patty, Pele, Fred Perry, Yvon Petra, Mark Philippoussis, Walter Pidgeon, Gary Player, Prince Rainer, Roger Pryor, Dennis Ralson, Rosser Reeves, Carolyn Reybold, Malcolm Reybold, The Shah of Iran, Joan Ridley, Vinnie Richards, Bobby Riggs, Marcelo Rios, Andy Roddick, George Rogers, Millicent Rogers, Herbert Roper-Barrett, Ken Rosewall, Stanley Rumbough, Greg Rusedski, Pete Sampras, Manolo Santana, Jiro Satoh, Dick Savitt, Ted Schroeder, Pancho Segura, Vic Seixas, Monica Seles, Dave Selznick, Nigel Sharpe, Dorothy Shepherd-Barron, Brooke Shields, Josane Sigart, Wallace Simpson, Horton Smith, Stan Smith, Ann Sothern, Boris Spassky, Lester Stoefen, Fred Stolle, Ed Sullivan, Clifford Sutter, Tommy Suffern Tailer, Roscoe Tanner, Robert Taylor, Ted Bates, Margaret Thatcher, A.K. Tigrett, I.B. Tigrett, Bill Tilden, Ashley Tinnen, Ion Tiriac, Tony Trabert, Twiggy, John Van Ryn, Guillermo Vilas, Ellsworth Vines, Gottried von Cramm, Bob Wagner, Jack Warner ,Watson Washburn, Pauline Washburn, Johnny Weissmuller, Jack Welch, Grover Whalen, John Hay “Jock” Whitney, Eileen Whittingstall, Dick Williams, Colin Wood, Edith Wood, Godfrey Wood, Patricia Wood, Tiger Woods, Fay Wray, Lefty Wright, Jiro Yamagishi and Alvin York.